It’s Small Business Season and it’s time to ramp up one of your marketing tools–the Chamber email newsletter.
Newsletters can be time-consuming but they can also keep the chamber top of mind for recipients. They are a good way to provide timely information to your community and you can create fun themes surrounding the content–like Small Business Season, perhaps?
Like all emails, a newsletter is only as good as its open rate. Most people receive a lot of them. You need your chamber newsletter to stand out. If you want to improve your existing newsletter or you’re thinking about starting one, this guide can help.
Chamber Email Newsletters
There are several ways you can deliver your chamber newsletter–print, email or video–but for brevity’s sake, we’re focusing on email newsletters in this article.
Within the category of email newsletters, you have a few options.
- Headlines only.
You can create an e-newsletter that uses headlines and links back to information posted on your website (or content on other websites such as holiday deals at your member businesses). The benefit of connecting to your website is that you’re driving traffic to your site. This also creates an archive of old newsletters and information.
The other option of linking to wherever you got the information (like those seasonal deals) is easier because you’re linking to the original content without having to add all the content to your website first.
Headline-only newsletters are quick hits of news and information where you can get a lot of business news in a small space. That’s convenient for your audience.
The con to this style is that you are making announcements and causing readers to go elsewhere for what interests them, assuming they’ll come back after they do (that’s why some chambers publish the content on their site first and then link to their own website).
- Teaser content.
Email Newsletter that tease with content have just enough information to get the reader interested but ultimately redirect them elsewhere for the bulk of the article/information. Again, that redirect can be to the chamber website or the content creator’s website.
The pro of this style is that readers get some information before going elsewhere and that may be enough for them to stay put. For instance, instead of just linking to the title “deals at <insert business name>,” you would list a few deals as a teaser.
The con to this style is that readers will still navigate away from your newsletter to learn more.
- Full content.
In this chamber email newsletter style, you include everything the reader needs to know. The only clicks necessary would be something like directing interested buyers to the member website for a purchase, for instance.
The benefit of this style is that you keep readers on your content without losing them to other sites.
The downside to full-content newsletters is that they can be very long. That requires a lot of content curation and making decisions about what you will include and what won’t make the cut.
Chamber Email Newsletter Distribution
Again, there are options here. You can make it a member-only perk or one that’s available to everyone who signs up. You can also share your newsletters on social media. Give people a reason to sign up for your chamber newsletter and it will help you build your email list too.
Staying top of mind is critical to renewals and memberships. Your chamber newsletter can be an amazing resource for community members. Wouldn’t it be great for it to be so highly thought of that people in your community advised newbies to the area to sign up for the chamber newsletter?
A newsletter is another touchpoint for the chamber to reach its audience. Seeing the chamber’s name associated with important information, like funding and educational opportunities, can be a great marketing tactic so give some thought to circulating widely.
Improving Open Rates on a Chamber Newsletter
Open rates make or break a newsletter. It doesn’t matter how wonderful the design and content are, if recipients aren’t opening your e-newsletters, your message isn’t making it to your audience. Subject line and sender are royalty when it comes to email opens.
We’ve written about how to achieve higher open rates for emails before and the same applies to newsletters:
Appealing design is essential to a chamber newsletter but you needn’t create your design from scratch. Many email-sending companies have solid templates that can be customized and saved as your own design. Colors can be customized to your branding and images can be housed in the system so they can be reused easily.
“Appealing design” means:
- it’s visually interesting with high-quality images. Clip art won’t get you clicks.
- easily navigable, not just an info dump.
- mobile friendly. Some readers will want to skim it on their phones.
- on brand. When someone opens the chamber newsletter, you want them to recognize it as a chamber publication. It needs to match your branding and tone.
Since we mentioned tone, let’s talk about newsletter content.
The right content for your newsletter is an audience-based thing, but you must also factor in the chamber’s goals for the newsletter. What are you using the newsletter for? Retention? Recruitment? A resource for the community? Probably all those things. But how are you doing that?
With newsletter content, it’s good to narrow down a goal because that helps you select a focus. Your focus could be the same all year or you could create an editorial calendar and use different these with each issue. (Hello, Small Business Season issue.)
Many chamber pros create event-focused newsletters, but you can also focus on economic development and tourism news, industry-specific interests (like creating a retail-focused newsletter), technology, or even self-promotion (but we highly discourage that last one.
A little self-promotion is important, but all chamber news all the time can be a fast ticket to unsubscribe if your audience is not interested in what you’re sharing).
The list below details common things chambers share in their newsletters and some important things to consider when sharing these types of content.
Are you sharing:
- event information?
Make sure your newsletter is not just your chamber calendar in another form. When sharing an event, explain what attendees will get out of it.
- member announcements?
What messages or stories are important to your members right now? Decide how you will give equal billing to members. Will you charge for placement or choice real estate? Do you limit announcements to newsletter sponsors only? Are you taking the time with these announcements to tell your audience what’s in it for them?
- a blog post or letter from the president?
This provides a great way to stay in touch and contextualizes what you’re sharing. You can also use the platform to fill your audience in on timely information.
Do you allow guest blogs or editorials? If you do, and assuming the content is evergreen (or vital for a period of time like a ballot issue), and not salesy, these things should live on your site with links in your newsletter.
- content that inspires, educates, or entertains?
Good content does one (or more) of those things. That rule is true for blogs, emails, newsletters, or any chamber communication. When it comes to content you create, it should be timely and pick up on trends, news, or interests in your area.
Need some more chamber newsletter content ideas?
To Archive or Not Archive the Chamber Newsletter
This can be an interesting question. The benefit to archiving past issues of your newsletter is that people can read them and get a feel for the kind of information you put out there. It also means businesses and people who were featured in a past issue can link to it. Many chambers provide an archive either through their email provider or simply upload the newsletter and linking to it from your archive page.
But the question is how many people read old editions of e-newsletters?
Having said that, there may be some benefit for non-members to see what you’re doing, especially if you post once a month or once a quarter. In those cases, waiting for the next edition could take some time. Referring them to the archive gives instant answers to their newsletter questions. It can also be a good resource for your community.
There is an SEO benefit to keeping old content on your site if it’s keyword optimized but that also depends on how the content is housed. For instance, a PDF or image of your old editions won’t benefit you the way that a text-based (HTML) newsletter will.
Chamber Newsletter Call to Action
Finally, if you have a chamber goal tied into your newsletter (and you should have one), you want to end each newsletter with a call to action. You can place this in the “President’s Message” or at the end of the document or even throughout. Wherever you decide to place it, it should be clear what action you want your reader to take.
While some chamber newsletter publishers place a different call to action in each section, this can be confusing. Which one should the reader act on? However, this approach may work if your readers don’t read your entire newsletter but only the parts that are important to them.
Your email engagement data can help you decide the most effective place for your call-to-action. You can figure that out by running A/B testing with different placement to see which version your audience responds to or by using a heat map on your newsletter’s activity (Constant Contact offers this feature but not all email senders do. Ask about this feature).
Chamber Newsletters as Non-Dues Revenue
There are a few opportunities to use your newsletter for non-dues revenue. However, marketing the opportunities to your members will be easier if you have data to show sends, open rates, forward rates, clicks, and other impressive numbers to illustrate how many people will be seeing their message.
Assuming you’ve crunched those numbers (your email marketing platform will have that information), you can set up non-dues revenue opportunities for banner sales, spotlights, guest articles or blog posts, flyers, etc.
Chamber Newsletter Frequency
Chamber newsletters are an efficient way to stay in touch with your members and the community at large. A well-planned, content-rich newsletter can be an invaluable resource. Creating and maintaining a good newsletter is a time commitment. It will probably take you a couple of hours between curation and layout.
You don’t have to commit to a weekly send but you should be consistent in how often you send it. Some chambers email it weekly, some monthly or bi-monthly, while others send one every quarter. Whatever send schedule you decide is best for your audience, be consistent. Don’t market a weekly newsletter and then send it quarterly. That’s confusing. It’s better to commit to a less frequent delivery schedule and rev it up to a more frequent schedule later, than fall behind in posting.
Your community needs the information you have (especially as we move into the busiest shopping season of the year) and will likely respond to it. You just need to ensure it’s valuable to them and they know when they can expect it.